History of Volunteers For Peace

During the summer of 1968, Peter Coldwell, Founder of Volunteers For Peace, participated in international short-term voluntary service projects (workcamps) in Hungary and Czechoslovakia through a program sponsored by the Unitarian-Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) in Boston.

1982 - Soviets Meet Americans at a Volunteers For Peace international voluntary service project in Belmont, Vermont.

1982 – Soviets Meet Americans at a Volunteers For Peace international voluntary service project in Belmont, Vermont.

The value of working on a common project, helping a community and forming ties with other volunteers, coupled with his frustrations with the state of the world, motivated him to create an American international voluntary service organization.

In 1982, Volunteers For Peace was formed as a Vermont non-profit corporation for the purpose of “promoting peaceful relations among nations” and was accepted as a member of the Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS) at UNESCO in Paris. VFP’s original sponsors included seed money from the US Information Agency (then part of the US State Department), the Peace Development Fund and the Field Foundation. The Board of Directors was and still is composed of former volunteers and individuals committed to promoting voluntary service projects and peace.

During the summer of 1982, VFP’s first outgoing volunteers were recruited and sent to projects in Poland, Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, the former U.S.S.R. and Czechoslovakia. VFP also hosted its first domestic voluntary service project in Mount Holly, Vermont with 19 volunteers from 11 countries.

1987 - Soviet and American Volunteers at a State Farm Project in the Ukraine

1987 – Soviet and American Volunteers at a State Farm Project in the Ukraine

In the 1980’s, Volunteers For Peace was heavily involved in the exchange of volunteers between the former U.S.S.R and the U.S., promoting citizen exchange and peace during the heart of the cold-war era. In the summer of 1985, VFP received grant money through the President’s International Youth Exchange Initiative, administered by the United States Information Agency (USIA) to initiate several conservation based bilateral workcamps in the USA with partner organizations in France and West Germany.

Over the past 30 years, VFP went from organizing local to regional to national domestic voluntary service projects and grew from sending hundreds to thousands of volunteers to partner organization’s projects abroad. VFP’s domestic projects have been in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, various affiliates of Habitat for Humanity , and dozens of non-profits and environmental and community action groups including Challenge Alaska, Montpelier Park Department, Solarfest, SPROUT, Wells Reserve at Laudholm and Lower Nine. Today, we host projects across the country in areas like New Orleans and New York City. Of course, we also offer many projects in Vermont, particularly Burlington, where our office is located.

VFP organizes and subsidizes 30-60 projects in the USA every year. We work with

2015- A group of international volunteers participating in a VFP project located in Burlington, VT

2015- A group of international volunteers participating in a VFP project located in Burlington, VT

local communities and non-profit organizations to identify projects that are meaningful to volunteers and vital to the organization. VFP provides administrative, leadership, community development, organizational, and financial support to our US hosts. In 2015 VFP hosted volunteers from 29 countries and subsidized over 15,000 hours of service to non-profits, parks and recreation departments, and local communities!

VFP is a Vermont non-profit corporation with tax exempt status (501 (c) (3), as determined by the IRS. We are a member of the Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service(CCIVS) at UNESCO and work in cooperation with Service Civil International (SCI), and the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organizations.

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